Review by Hsieh

"Good try, but no syrup."


Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs, or MMORPGs, have been popular for quite a long period of time - and they have good reason to be so. Games such as Sony's EverQuest and Sierra's The Realm Online have prospered not only because of their gameplay and their graphics, but also because of the environment that those games have been in. In other words - it was (and still is) not just the graphics and gameplay that made games such as Everquest and The Realm Online fun to play - it was also the player community and the power that the games had to draw one into the game, not unlike a virtual reality simulation.

Released in March of 1999, EverQuest is credited with expanding the horizons of the MMORPG genre. Although games such as Origin System's Ultima Online had come before it and popularized the genre of MMORPG, EverQuest sent the genre flying into a whole new direction - into the Western game mainstream. In fact, EverQuest was so revolutionary that it rocketed through the industry to become one of, if not the, most successful MMORPGs in the entire United States for a winning streak of five years. EverQuest was successful, popular, and even rooted in America's society, with even non-gaming magazines featuring articles on its eccentricities. It was quite remarkable indeed.

Soon, games such as Ragnarok Online and Asheron's Call appeared, sending gamers into more worlds of sorcery and swords, and the MMORPG genre skyrocketed to an extremely high point. By now, because of the popularity of the genre, games came out that mimicked other games, almost to the point of plagiarism. It seemed as though companies had nothing new to offer to the MMORPG genre - with EverQuest slowing down with its expansions, and all MMORPGs looking basically the same, gamers didn't know how to find a good, wholesome, UNIQUE game anymore.

So, they turned to the system that made MMORPGs possible in the first place - the Internet. They looked around, found newer, almost unheard-of games, and played them. Maple Story, a two-dimensional "platform MMORPG", was one of these virtually cloaked games.

The Review Itself

Maple Story is (apparently) a completely free game. Free in the fact that it is free to register, and free in the fact that it is free to play. However, due to the fact that the development team needs funds, certain "cash" items must be bought with actual, real greenbacks to obtain. Aside from that, however, Maple Story is a free game, making it all the easier to play and to create an opinion on.

Maple Story is a strange addition to the MMORPG genre. While most MMORPGs are three-dimensional and third-person (if not isometric), Maple Story breaks free from that so-called mold by making itslef a two-dimensional platform MMORPG. I will admit, Maple Story look quite strange to me when I first saw it. "Is there such a thing," I thought, "as PLATFORM MMORPGS?"

It was quite strange indeed. And therefore, as a card shark observes fresh meat to try and pick out any new tricks, I downloaded the client, registered, and immediately tried to immerse myself in the world of Maple Story.

It was not easy.

Like most MMORPGs, Maple Story allows you to create a character and train him (or her) in the art of fighting. By killing monsters, you collect equipment for your character and gain experience points and "level up", becoming stronger in the attributes of your choosing. It is possible to complete quests as well. However, there is no strong incentive to do so, as most of the quests involve collecting items - hundreds of them - for a single sword or shield that you could easily trade from another dealer (preferably human).

Like many a player, I turned away from these so-called quests and decided to level up on large mushrooms and green mucus-like slimeball. At first, it was relatively easy - and later, it became just a tad bit difficult. In fact, prior to playing Maple Story, I had easily levelled up, patiently going up the ladder, becoming stronger with each level. However, while actually playing Maple Story, I levelled up quite slowly - literally at a snail's pace. From the very beginning, I relied on snails to level up, killing snail after snail after snail until I worried that I might be doing something wrong, as the experience points barely went up. So, I killed other monsters, and watched my experience points with the eyes of a hawk.

Alas, all of this was to no avail.

My character oh-so-slowly levelled up to level ten, and finally changed classes to - wait for it - a Thief. How unbelievable. You see, Maple Story has only four classes (with branches of those four after them) - the ubiquitous Magician, Warrior, Bowman, and Thief. Yes, these classes can turn into other classes, but that is after countless, countless weeks of levelling up (or days, if you're willing to sacrifice that much of your life for Maple Story) - with, again, not too much of an incentive to do so. You'll get new skills, yes, but many of them seem to be just for showing off to the beginners - almost advertising Wizet's need for players.

After I all but stopped levelling up (I had given up on not only the monsters, but also my enemy, the experience bar), I decided to stand around and talk to people (you can't sit unless you're on a bench, which isn't too common around the wild). However, these people - like most MMORPG addicts - didn't seem to like talking too much. In fact, they much preferred attacking monsters and yelling things like "FAME ME", which supposedly gave one much prestige (the Fame System of Maple Story, a "character rating system", is implemented in your character once you reach level 15; its usefulness has yet to come to me). Thus, I stayed silent and watched as the other players fruitlessly attacked other monsters, levelling up once every forty-eight hours. You have no idea how sorry I felt for them. The experience curve in Maple Story was, and still is, one of its greatest pitfalls in what otherwise would be a marvelous MMORPG. Unfortunate, then, that the players still play it, wasting away as they struggle to get to level 120.

Speaking of players, scamming is quite rampant in Maple Story. Yes, World of Warcraft and Ragnarok Online had scams (and spam, for that matter), but Maple Story has one of the deepest crime waves I've seen in a while. You have the Runescape-like scams that trick new players into buying "rare" items, and you have the Diablo II-like "autoloot" theft scams. What's more is that these scams are not only stupid (I wouldn't trust someone who tries to sell you a moldy log, would you?), but people actually fall for them, making the scams run even more rampant, if that's even possible at this point in Maple Story.

Trying to go back to the good side of things, Maple Story has decent graphics that do what is needed to be done in the game. Cute, two-dimensional graphics give a sort-of (I don't want to say cartoonish) unique, weird, cute-like feel to the game, and although they do not exactly immerse you in Maple Story's world, they're pretty nicely done. However, I do have a bone to pick with the character design - because of faulty hair and color design, you see a lot of characters that look exactly like you. Sure, it's not bad when you're just standing there talking to nobody in particular, but when you're training, sometimes you'll think you're some other guy, when suddenly out of nowhere your screen shakes and you perish. You'd think with a game of this size, Maple Story's graphic design corp could do a lot better with the character designs - and yet they didn't do so. Another pitfall for what could be a nice game.

Ah, but the music is very well-done. The cutesy feel of the music made me giggle, almost, but that didn't mean it was bad. In fact, Maple Story has a very, very well-done soundtrack for a free game. Each theme represents its locale very well, and is quite catchy, rivalling that of Maple Story's predecessor, Gravity Co.'s Ragnarok Online. But it doesn't make up for Maple Story's bad sides. It really doesn't.

Maple Story's shortcomings far outnumber the good sides of the game. A faulty experience point curve and an 75% ugly (graphically and otherwise) player community, as well as silly little scams that many people fall for completely undermine what would otherwise be an excellent game. Hopefully, Wizet will take notice of complaints - which aren't few - and possibly change its game just a little. Who knows? Maybe Maple Story will become the new EverQuest of its time. All it needs is a little work.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 08/15/05

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